As tax season begins, many divorced or separated parents may be wondering whether they can both claim their child as a dependent on their income tax returns. The answer is not always straightforward, and it depends on several factors such as custody arrangements and support payments. In this article, we will explore the rules and exceptions that apply to the question of whether only one parent can claim a child on taxes.
Understanding Dependency Exemptions
Firstly, let’s understand what dependency exemptions are. A dependency exemption is an amount of money you can deduct from your taxable income for each qualifying dependent claimed on your tax return. Currently, in 2021, a single exemption amount is $4,300.
To qualify for a dependency exemption for your child, he or she must meet certain criteria set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), including:
- Be under age 19 at year-end or under age 24 if enrolled as a full-time student
- Have lived with you for more than half of the year
- Be financially supported by you
- Not provide more than half of his or her own financial support during the year
If these conditions are met, then typically only one parent may claim the child as their dependent.
Custodial vs Non-Custodial Parents
The IRS defines custodial and noncustodial parents based on which parent has physical custody of the child for most nights during the calendar year. The custodial parent is generally considered to have provided more than half of the annual support required to raise a minor child.
In most situations where two parents cannot both claim an eligible dependent because they do not file joint income tax returns together: Generally speaking…
Custodial Parent Claims Child As Dependent
When one parent has sole physical custody of their children (or has primary physical custody where there’s shared residency), that parent is the one who can claim the child as a dependent. The custodial parent may also be entitled to file as head of household and potentially receive credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child and Dependent Care Credit.
Noncustodial Parent Claims Child As Dependent
The non-custodial parent may claim an exemption for his or her child only if at least one of several special rules applies, including:
- The parents are divorced or legally separated from each other
- The custodial parent signs a written declaration that he or she won’t use the exemption for that year
- A pre-1985 divorce decree/court order states the noncustodial parent can claim the dependency exemption
- There is a multiple support agreement where both parents contribute more than half of their child’s income but neither can alone meet all parental support requirements
It’s important to note that in cases where there is shared custody time between parents, it becomes more complicated.
When parents share custody equally (i.e., 50/50 split), they need to determine which parent will claim the child as a dependent on their tax return. In this situation, there must be specific agreements between both parties and evidence indicating how long each lived with said child in said year.
Parents should examine IRS Publication 504 — Divorced or Separated Individuals, regarding claiming dependents when determining how to report taxes involving children living in joint custody arrangements.
Understanding who can claim your children on your tax returns requires careful examination of IRS guidelines regarding qualifying dependents and understanding which classifications apply after examining proper documentation such as court orders defining custodianship rights. It may also require seeking professional advice from accounting professionals with experience dealing with family law issues.
In general, only one parent may claim a dependency exemption per qualifying child on their tax return unless certain special circumstances exist – specifically relating sometimes complex legal requirements around shared custody arrangements, divorce settlements or court orders. It’s important to follow the guidelines outlined by the IRS and ensure only one parent is claiming a child as a dependent in order to avoid penalties and audits.
Remember, when it comes to taxes involving children of separated or divorced parents there can be issues that are not always clear-cut. However, understanding the rules for claiming dependents will help you prepare your tax returns correctly so make sure any questions about your situation are answered by a qualified professional in good standing.
Certainly, below are three common FAQs about whether only one parent can claim a child on their taxes, along with answers to each:
Can both parents claim the same child on their taxes?
No — only one parent can claim a given child as a dependent for tax purposes. This rule exists to prevent double-dipping and ensure that people aren’t claiming more dependents than they actually have. However, in some cases where divorced or separated parents split custody of the child equally, there may be exceptions.
How do I determine which parent gets to claim our child on taxes?
In most cases, the custodial parent (the parent who had physical custody of the child for more than half of the year) will get to claim their child as a dependent on their taxes. However, there are situations where this may not be true – for example if you signed an agreement allowing your ex-spouse to take turns claiming your children.
What happens if both parents mistakenly try to claim the same child on their taxes?
It’s important that you communicate openly with your co-parent about who intends to file and what deductions they intend to take related to your shared children prior leading up toward filing tax returns each year so this scenario doesn’t happen by mistake . If it does occur though; The IRS has ways of identifying duplicate claims, and will typically reject both filings or issue an audit when such incident happen which could lead legal penalties against any involved party breaking rules intentionally thus it would be best sorted out between parties with professional financial advice taken into account at earliest convenience .